One of the oldest and grandest neighborhoods in Manhattan, Gramercy Park has long been associated with the city’s moneyed elite. Built around the private Gramercy Park, whose gates have been locked to the general public since the 1840s, the neighborhood is lined with Italianate and Greek Revival designs. Numerous celebrities and dignitaries have called Gramercy home, and many made a home at the Gramercy Park Hotel, which was built in two stages in the 1920s. Former residents of the hotel include the family of Joseph P. Kennedy (including a young John F. Kennedy), and Humphrey Bogart was married there.
The exclusive enclave known as Gramercy Park began in the 1830s, when
Samuel B. Ruggles began to convert what was then little more than marsh into a
private park. Ruggles donated the land, which was then expertly drained and
landscaped with native plants. Ruggles envisioned the park as a place where
moneyed New Yorkers would want to live, away from the increasing population and
noise to the south. The idea behind Gramercy Park was a peaceful, exclusive
neighborhood in the heart of a rapidly growing city.
The carefully planted park has been tucked away behind locked iron
gates since the neighborhood’s creation. It remains New York’s only private
park, and access to the park is granted only to residents who pay an annual fee
and live in one of the 39 townhouses immediately surrounding the two-acre
expanse. And even key-holders have to abide by a series of strict rules, such
as no commercial photography, no alcohol, and no feeding of birds.
Over the years, many well-known New Yorkers have made a home in
Gramercy. One of its most famous early residents was Edwin Booth, the more
famous (at least initially) brother of John Wilkes Booth. An acclaimed actor,
Booth retired from public life for several months following the assassination
of Abraham Lincoln, preferring the solitude of his Gramercy home. A statue of
Edwin Booth still adorns the park. In the early 1900s, Joseph P. Kennedy and
his young family, including John F. Kennedy, lived in the Gramercy Park Hotel.
Today, Julia Roberts and Karl Lagerfeld own apartments in the neighborhood.
A number of the city’s oldest apartments were built around Gramercy
Park, as well as one of its most elegant hotels. The Gramercy Park Hotel was
built in two phases, beginning in 1924. An extension was added between 1929 and
1930. The property has long been a popular residential hotel, attracting
numerous public figures, including the Kennedy family. Humphrey Bogart was
married in the hotel in 1926, and Edmund Wilson and Mary McCarthy lived there
in the 1940s.
There have been extensions to Gramercy Park over the years and the
boundaries of the Historic District lie inside the neighborhood itself. The
neighborhood was listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1980.